The Pacific Beach neighborhood is a hip and laid back beach town that is a favorite among young adults, college students, and surfers. High property values and upscale rentals also attract professionals and young families, making Pacific Beach an eclectic and diverse community. Nestled between La Jolla and Mission Beach, this little town is a haven for those who love sand, surf, and beach nightlife. You can spend days roaming around Pacific Beach exploring the wide range of restaurants, pubs and bars, beach shops, and of course the granddaddy of them all – the beach. Escaping to Pacific Beach for your turn at fun in the sun is a great way to get in touch with your inner San Diegan.
In the late 1880s when Alonzo Horton was busy building up New Town into current Downtown San Diego, and John Spreckels was hard at work developing Coronado Island, Ora Hubbell cleared the grain fields from what is now Pacific Beach, pitched a tent on it, and started development. Together with a small group of investors, they built a race track and college to attract people to the new neighborhood. By 1902, the railway had connected to Pacific Beach and beyond to La Jolla and oceanfront Pacific Beach lots sold for $350 to $700 each. By the 1950s, houses in the neighborhood went for $12,000 apiece; today, many of those same houses are worth millions.
The Pacific Beach neighborhood revolves almost entirely around beach life, divorced from the urban life that dominates other San Diego neighborhoods. Ocean Walk, the boardwalk connecting Pacific and Mission Beaches is the place to be for a morning run or sunset walk along the beach. Rent a bike, strap on your rollerblades, glide on your skateboard, or stroll with your friends on its clean, wide surface. Head over to Crystal Pier and walk out to the end for beautiful views of the ocean and shoreline. Keep an eye out for whales and dolphins, or watch the local surfers hang ten on the pier’s north side. There is a wide variety of restaurants and bars within walking distance along Ocean Walk; grab brunch at JRDN’s, craft beers at PB Ale House, or Taco Tuesday Happy Hour at World Famous. Lounge on the wide, sandy beach or play, surf, and swim in the water. Never miss an opportunity to watch for the green flash as the sun dips into the Pacific Ocean.
Mission Boulevard and Garnet Avenue are the main arteries of Pacific Beach where you can find an eclectic mix of shops, bars, and restaurants. Whatever you’re craving, Pacific Beach has a restaurant that serves it, from Zen 5 Sushi on Garnet to Fat Fish Cantina or local late night favorite – Roberto’s Tacos on Mission Boulevard. Shop Garnet Avenue for bikini beachwear, or bohemian and surfer style clothing that dominate the shopping scene. The Closet offers great deals on daytime or nighttime summer wear for the budget-minded shopper, and Buffalo Exchange is the place to get vintage pieces. You’ll find head shops, surfboards, health food stores, and pretty much anything you need down this main street. PB Bar and Grill on Garnet and Miller’s Field on Mission are two of the most popular sports bars with daily drink specials and big screen TVs. Johnny V’s and Moondoggie’s are favorites for dressing up and dancing. For those who prefer jeans, flip flops, craft beer, and a chill spot to play pool and darts, PB has that too.
Kate Sessions Park is the place to spend an afternoon lounging with the neighborhood locals. Located high on a hill off Lamont Street/Soledad Road in Pacific Beach, it offers spectacular views. Many locals spend holidays like the Fourth of July barbecuing with friends, playing Frisbee, and lounging under sun or shade on the expansive grassy areas at this park. Grab some picnic supplies from Von’s or Trader Joe’s on Garnet, a good book, and a blanket, and spend the afternoon relaxing, laughing, and goofing off. Keep in mind that the same rules for no alcohol at the beaches now apply to the parks too. Don’t be surprised to see a couple playing fetch with their dog to your right and another couple getting married to your left. Kate Sessions Park offers one of the best views in San Diego and is a prime location to watch the sunset over Mission Bay. In fact, you’ll have panoramic views of Pacific Beach, Mission Bay, Coronado Island, the Coronado Bridge, the SeaWorld Tower, and the Downtown skyline most days.
Other Things to Do and See
You have options if you want to make Pacific Beach the hub of your vacation. There is Tower 23 Hotel right on the boardwalk just north of Crystal Pier for the upscale traveler who likes a little luxury mixed with their sun and surf; this is also the location of popular JRDN restaurant. If you want a value friendly home away from home type experience that’s close to the beach, has a pool for the kids, and barbecues for mom and dad, you should check out Beach Haven Inn on Mission Boulevard. Resort lovers who crave all-in-one vacation destinations may want to book a stay at the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa also on Mission Boulevard, but on the bay side of the street.
While Pacific Beach appeals to the young adult crowd, it is also a safe, family-friendly beach neighborhood. You’ll find plenty of kids here playing on the beaches or hanging out at The Baked Bear building personalized ice cream sandwiches. Avid surfers can make their way a few blocks north of the boardwalk to Tourmaline Street; at the bottom of the hill is Tourmaline Surf Park with arguably the best breaks in Pacific Beach. Spend the day on a craft beer and foodie crawl through PB, take a surf or yoga lesson, shop for yourself along Garnet, or shop along Ocean Walk for souvenirs to bring home. Get a massage or other wellness treatment at one of several holistic health spas. If you love a laid back vibe and slower pace this is your neighborhood.